On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed the Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary Government Data Act as part of the larger Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2017. The legislation would require all non-sensitive Federal data be available to the public in a machine-readable format with minimal legal limitations and mandate agencies appoint chief data officers to oversee their open data efforts.

The legislation would require the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to help agencies stand up “comprehensive data inventories” and for the General Services Administration (GSA) to create an online portal for public searches and access to information published by each agency. The OMB would also create a Chief Data Officer Council to assist in “establishing government-wide best practices for the use, protection, dissemination, and generation of data and for promoting data sharing agreements and other specified functions.”

“It’s the people’s data. They paid for it, and they deserve to access it, whether it’s weather, traffic, census or budget numbers,” said bill sponsor Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in a statement.

This bill aligns with the President’s Management Agenda goal of leveraging Federal data to streamline the internal processes of agencies and the upcoming Federal Data Strategy. It also fits in line with the Trump Administration’s push for private innovation and economic growth through government data.

The bill will make its way to the House for a vote, but time for the bill’s passage is limited before the current session of Congress ends.


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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.